To certify the product or the farm producer–that is the question for HFAC, AWI

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  June 2003:

HERNDON,  Virginia–For a few hours on
May 22-23 Humane Farm Animal Care founder Adele
Douglass was on top of the world,  among the top
three stories of the morning headlined by the
Associated Press.
“Rectangular labels reading ‘Certi-fied
Humane Raised & Handled’ should start appearing
in about a month on meat,  poultry,  dairy and
egg products,”  AP reporter David Dishneau
explained.
“The program,”  Dishneau continued,
“backed by 10 animal welfare groups,  certifies
producers and processors who meet certain
standards for animal treatment.  Participants are
charged modest royalty fees– 50¢ a pig,  for
example–and pay for annual inspections at $400 a
day. ”


As well as introducing HFAC,  Dishneau
introduced millions of readers to the realities
of factory farming:
“The certification standards,”  he wrote,
“prohibit keeping pregnant pigs in metal
gestation crates,  confining egg-laying hens in
cages,  and tying dairy cows in stalls.  They bar
using growth hormones and turning animals too
sick to walk into food.”  He closed by  offering
a link to the HFAC web site.
Other media quoted endorsements from the
American SPCA and Humane Society of the U.S.,
both of which are among the HFAC sponsors.
Some reports noted that a Gallup poll
released one day earlier found that 62% of
Americans support strict laws–which exist in
several European nations but not the  U.S.–to
protect the well-being of farm animals.
HFAC had enjoyed a remarkably successful public
launch,  after Douglass spent two years in an
abortive effort to start a similar certification
program called Free Farmed under the auspices of
the American Humane Association.  Douglass was
the AHA Wash-ington D.C. office director from
1986 to 2001.
But any euphoria Douglass might have felt lasted less than four days.
On May 27 Associated Press distributed a
correction saying it had “reported erroneously
that a similar program sponsored by the AHA had
failed.  That program,  called Free Farmed,
still exists,  AHA said.”
Having seen no sign of Free Farmed
activity since Douglass left the AHA in late
2002,  ANIMAL PEOPLE checked the AHA claim.  The
Free Farmed web page had disappeared.  A
telephone message left at the Free Farmed number
was not returned.  ANIMAL PEOPLE learned later
that the staff member assigned to check the
messages was on maternity leave.  An e-mail
inquiry sent to AHA president Tim O’Brian drew no
response.
The most recent Free Farmed press release
archived at the AHA web site was issued on
November 22,  2002,  when Douglass was still
directing the program.
Figuratively competing with her own
ghost,  pending the AHA appointment of a
successor,  was just one headache for Douglass.
A May 30 letter from Animal Welfare Institute
president Cathy Liss to ANIMAL PEOPLE and
possibly other organizations that have endorsed
HFAC was another.
“As you know,”  wrote Liss,  “the HFAC
program is intended to help consumers distinguish
between products from humanely reared animals and
those produced in cruel animal factories.  The
chief concerns that AWI has with the program are
that it certifies companies involved in dual
production,   raising some animals under humane
conditions while subjugating others to inhumane,
factory-like conditions,  and it identifies as
‘humane’ products from animals who have been
mutilated” by tail-docking and debeaking.
“Would a human rights organization certify a
company as humane if it caters to a special
market by manufacturing some of its goods using
adult labor in spacious,  comfortable and healthy
working conditions,”  Liss continued,  “while at
the same time selling to a generic market goods
produced by child laborers working long hours in
cramped dimly lit quarters that ruin their
eyesight and health?
“Of course not,”  Liss declared.  “Would
a consumer searching to buy from a company that
treats workers with dignity knowingly buy from
that corporation?  We don’t think so.  We believe
consumers want to buy products from companies
that are 100% humane.”
Liss did not mention that AWI has since 1999
endorsed pork products marketed under the Niman
Ranch label.
AWI consultant Diane Halverson explained
when the Niman Ranch program was announced that,
“AWI’s criteria require that the participants be
independent family farmers,  that is  the farmer
must own the animals,  depend on the farm for a
livelihood,  and be involved in the day to day
physical labor of managing the pigs.  This
requirement,”  she said,  “helps to ensure that
pigs are raised in modest numbers,  making it
easier to know and manage the animals as
individuals.”
Tail-docking is not permitted.  The Niman
Ranch standards are otherwise similar to those of
HFAC.
The major differences between the HFAC
and AWI standards,  Douglass told ANIMAL PEOPLE,
are that HFAC is trying to persuade agribusiness
to adopt more humane methods while AWI is trying
to combat the dominant role of agribusiness,  and
that HFAC is certifying products rather than
producers,  in recognition that modern
agricultural conglomerates may include a variety
of different farms experimenting with different
methods.  The most profitable methods come to
dominate.  HFAC hopes to help humane methods beat
out the status quo in marketplace competition,
so as to encourage dual producers to eventually
convert all of their facilities away from factory
methods–which few producers with
multi-million-dollar investments in
infrastructure are likely to do without doing
side-by-side comparison of economic results.
“Beak-trimming is contrary to the
principles of our animal care standards,”
Douglass acknowledged, “but we have found that no
matter how good the management is of some of the
current strains of laying hens, outbreaks of
feather-pecking and cannibalism do occur,  and
can pose much more serious welfare threats.
Therefore, we allow the practice.  There is some
evidence that some genetic strains of hen are
less predisposed to feather-pecking,”  Douglass
said.  “We will be reviewing this issue and will
move away from this practice when more
appropriate strains of birds are available.
“Tail biting can cause enormous welfare
problems for pigs,”  Douglass continued.
“Although tail-docking to prevent tail biting is
also against the principles of our animal care
standards, it is accepted at the present time
because of the pain and suffering caused by tail
biting.  As soon as enough information is
available with regard to husbandry methods that
prevent tail biting, the practice of tail docking
for preventative reasons will no longer be
permitted.”

Other standards

In other developments involving
agricultural standards,  Yum!  Brands Inc.
announced on May 1 that it will begin requiring
the 18 poultry producers who supply birds to the
KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) restaurant chain to
allow the birds 30% more freedom of movement,
take steps to prevent rough handling at
slaughterhouses,  and otherwise improve the care
and feeding of chickens.
“The fast-food giant also asked the
government to review a possible change in how
processors slaughter birds,”  reported Bruce
Schreiner of Associated Press.  “KFC wants to
know if gassing the birds with blasts of carbon
dioxide would be safe for consumers and
slaughterhouse workers.  Its suppliers now stun
the birds,  then slit their throats.”
Yum! Brands and KFC denied that the
actions resulted from a PETA protest campaign,
but PETA responded to the announcement by
suspending protests at the KFC corporate
headquarters in Louisville.
With the American Veterinary Medical
Association annual congress coming July 19-23 in
Denver,  Farm Sanctuary on June 4 asked the AVMA
House of Delegates to  reconsider an endorsement
of gestation crates for sows,  adopted at the
2002 annual meeting.
Also on June 4 United Poultry Concerns
asked the AVMA to approve a resolution offered by
the Association of Veterinari-ans for Animal
rights “recommending that all hens used in
commercial egg production receive fresh water and
nutritionally adequate food on a daily basis,
and that the AVMA oppose forced molting [to
induce a new egg-laying cycle] when it involves
the withholding of water or food or employs some
other means of causing a molt which results in
malnutrition or other ill health.”
The AVMA in 2002 “adopted a resolution
that opposes prolonged total food deprivation but
allows for ‘intermittent feeding’ and ‘diets of
low nutrient density’ designed to force hens to
molt,”  United Poultry Concerns founder Karen
Davis explained.
Earlier,  Farm Sanctuary asked members to
oppose a set of draft standards for the “humane”
treatment of farm animals issued six years behind
schedule by the New Jersey Department of
Agriculture.  The proposed New Jersey standards,
Farm Sanctuary said,  allow veal crating,  use of
gestation crates,  and forced molting.

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